multicultural team or tension?

As our world becomes more connected globally, today’s organizations need an atmosphere that encourages a multicultural work environment. However it is a big mistake to simply put a group of international leaders on a team and expect them to achieve great results. There will be many differing values on an international team, and we need to help our leaders understand and appreciate each other in order to work together more effectively.

One great tool I have found is a book I am reading for my M.A. in Global Leadership  – When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures, by Richard D. Lewis. A helpful explanation of general nationality differences divides the world’s cultures into three groups: Linear-Actives, Multi-Actives and Reactives.  

See if you recognize yourself and/or some of your co-workers or teammates in one these groups!

Linear-Actives Common characteristics of this group are affinity for schedules and plans, preference for objective data and information, task focus, less emotional and relational connections. Communication with Linear-Actives will be direct, to the point, and optimistic, often decorated with humor and idiomatic phrases.  They are quite linear in their view of time and appreciate punctuality.  Promotion at work is a result of hard work and productivity. They are known to do very well with small talk at dinner parties, but prefer all business during meetings. This group is the smallest of the three, with around 600 million members.

Multi-Actives  The Multi-Active group has over three billion members, making it the largest group. The Multi-Actives have an extroverted and loquacious manner, multitasking capabilities, and interdependent, net-working relationships. Conversation with a Multi-Active is passionate, animated, descriptive and personal. Schedule is subordinate to relationship and the event of the moment. Multi-Actives are stereotypically known for arriving late for appointments and for eating dinner late into the evening. Entry and advance in the workplace is often a result of family and/or other loyalty connections. Compassion and human understanding motivate Multi-Actives to action.

Reactives The third group that Lewis describes is the Reactive group. They have over one and one-half billion members around the world. This group is typically quiet and reserved, good listeners, respectful of others’ needs and desires, principle oriented and very concerned with saving face in relationships. They have a cyclical view of time. Communication will likely be more formal, polite, complimentary, with plenty of periods of silence. Reactives are known for their extravagant gift giving and their harmonious relationships.

Recognition of different national culture values is just one step toward understanding. There are many other cultural value differences that factor into team relationships: age, gender, personality, profession, etc.  Our authentic respect for each other and our sincere willingness to make adjustments to each other are key components to international team success. More about how to do that in a future blog…

With which group do you identify?

What has your experience been like in international settings?  

Please share a comment so that we can learn together!